SINGAPORE - Hougang United general manager Matthew Tay was acquitted on Tuesday (Oct 23) of slapping Balestier Khalsa player Sanjin Vrebac by the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) disciplinary committee.
An FAS spokesman told The Straits Times: "The FAS disciplinary committee, having heard evidence from the match officials, team officials, the players and witnesses produced, was unable to conclusively ascertain whether or not Balestier Khalsa FC player Sanjin Vrebac was slapped by Matthew Tay of Hougang United.
"Given the circumstances, Tay was given the benefit of doubt and was found not guilty of the charge of slapping Sanjin Vrebac."
The 18-year-old Austrian Vrebac had alleged that Tay hit him at the end of the Aug 15 Singapore Premier League match at the Hougang Stadium that Balestier won 2-1.
The encounter followed a heated end to the match, where players shoved each other after Vrebac caught Hougang's Fabian Kwok in the face in an aerial challenge. Vrebac had swelling and redness under his left eye from the later incident with Tay.
The Tigers subsequently lodged a formal complaint with the FAS, while Tay denied slapping Vrebrac and told ST then that he wanted to tap the player on the shoulder to say "Good game", but accidentally struck the back of his head.
Tay, 40, told ST: "I always have faith and trust in the disciplinary committee, who were very thorough in deliberating all the evidence before them.
"They were not convinced I was guilty based on the totality of the evidence put forth and hence acquitted me of the charge.
"It has always been my assertion that my gesture was unfortunately misconstrued when it was meant to be a sporting gesture.
"I'm heartened to be vindicated and am thankful for the fullest support and trust of everyone in Hougang United, my friends and, most importantly, my family who stood by me during this difficult period."
Balestier general manager Cheng Tim Nee said his club will abide by the disciplinary committee's decision and had no further comment.